Chapter 5 Changing States.

Location : Sausalito, Late Afternoon.

Star date: 2156.91

They were sat at their favourite table in the Spinnaker, overlooking the Bay. Both of them had changed so they were gently incognito. Amanda had her hair tied back with a cap on. Trip wore a fleece, jeans and a baseball cap. As soon as the owners received their call they reorganised the corner table with the best views so they were alone. Trip was sat facing out to sea.

“So what happened?” Amanda looked at him, pensive. “Well, you know I am not gonna be precious with you over ‘need to know’ but high ranking officials from both Vulcan and Earth were there. We were brought up to date on the mission on Vulcan 18 months ago and what’s been behind various incidents I was involved in. One in particular they want to go over again. So they want to interrogate me to see if they can gain some more understanding of this unknown enemy’s technology and the level of threat.” “Sounds important. But pretty straight forward?” Trip finished his seafood dish and shook his head. “Well Yeah, but T’Pol has lead this investigation and rather than an interrogation she wants to probe my mind for more intel.” Amanda laughed. “What’s so funny?” “Well, given your history it is just a little ironic: PROBE YOUR MIND!” Amanda could not help making fun of the situation and said the last three words with mock seriousness. Trip took a sip of his beer and looked out the window. He found it anything but amusing.

Amanda knew her man and waited for the right moment.”So what does this involve?” Deep down, Trip was impressed that Amanda was not getting all territorial. “It’s a Vulcan Ritual where our minds become temporarily linked” he responded. “She can access my memories, including my subconscious, which is why me writing a report has less value.” Amanda looked for clarification: “So it’s much more than this Bond you already have?” “Absolutely. And by the way, I have good news on that front. Provided I get leave of absence from our Commander, I can go to Vulcan to have the thing… broken.” Amanda smiled. Not for her, but for him. “Good, Trip. I am pleased for you. Incidentally, we are already working on replacing your last day. You’re gonna absolutely love it!”

Location: Vulcan Compound, T’Pol’s quarters.

Trip was right on time: 1900 hours. He had passed through security and hit the door chime. T’Pol came to the door. “Come in.” She had changed from her Ceremonial Robes and wore a simple lightweight full length dress and a matching floor-length cardigan in cream. The ensemble gave her a kind of spiritual beauty.

As this was the Vulcan Compound, the room followed Vulcan lines. In the centre were a series of floor cushions which could be adjusted for whichever ritual was being performed.

‘Thank you for coming, Trip. I am not sure how much additional information will be gained from this exercise but T’Pau has expressed her gratitude for your help.” Trip took off his fleece and his shoes. Stood there in his T shirt and slacks if T’Pol cared notice she would have seen he was in perfect shape. “It’s fine, now whadd’ya you want me to do?”

“Very little. Relax and kneel on that cushion.” She pointed to one which had clearly been shaped and designed to make kneeling as comfortable as possible.

He knelt down and waited. The lighting in the room was subdued, the white noise very quiet indeed. Everything… was quiet.

T’Pol knelt down on the cushion opposite Trip. “I am going to begin. I believe it will merely be an extension of what we have experienced in the Bond.”

She knelt down opposite him, Trip instinctively closed his eyes and waited. She reached out with her right hand and placed her index finger on the top of his cheekbone, her second finger on his cheek and her thumb on his chin. She now pursued the ritual of concentration that V’Lor had schooled her in. Trip breathed deeply and with T’Pol’s touch began to focus on her presence.

“My mind to your mind”

“Our minds are one”

“My Thoughts ….” Both of them opened their eyes with a jolt. The speed of the connection took them both completely by surprise. Their Bond, though latent and unused, was as powerful as ever. T’Pol struggled to remain coherent in her search of Trip’s mind as he was laid bare to her, as she was to him ….to a point. She sent out the thought. “We must remain calm.” They both breathed more easily.

T’Pol searched his memories and quickly found herself on the Drone Ship. T’Pol mouthed the conversation ,”Some of these circuits are live but I don’t know what there for”Trip haltingly began to access his exact response “I… can’t.. figure. out what half this stuff is.” T’Pol moved on, Trip: “I think I have found an environmental system.” T’Pol: “These consoles look like crew stations” Trip.”Well how about that.” She accessed Trip having activated the environmental control systems walking past the crew stations that his colleague had been looking at. T’Pol: “Do you think it’s possible theres no one else on board?” Trip.”Why would a robot ship have a bridge like this?” Almost in wonder, Trip whispered his colleagues answer. “It could be a prototype: out-fit an existing ship with the latest controls.” T’Pol looked through Trip’s eyes at the arrays and followed him, taking the Warp controls off-line. T’Pol “Can you make any sense of these?” Trip, his eyes now wide open, spoke very slowly. “Ah.. where’s.. Hoshi.. when.. you.. need.. her?” Looking at the dense schematics on the screen revealing so much of their system’s logic, their methodology and how they used technology.

T’Pol drew her hands back and gave a sigh. Trip looked deep in thought. They both drew themselves up and looked at each other in tandem. “To be honest, T’Pol, I wasn’t sure of the value of this but we have just nailed the enemy’s technology.”

“Tell me T”Pol why didn’t you ask Malcolm to do this,” waiving his hands at the cushions. “As the senior officer you would have more comprehension of what you witnessed and … as I suspected our Bond made the exchange..easier.” Trip nodded ruefully the answer to that for him was both Yes and No.

She looked at him wistfully. “We owe a debt to you, Trip. I would point out that whilst we have withdrawn from the Meld because of our Bond, I will continue to access your memories of this event much as if they were mine.”

“T’Pol withdrew and asked Trip if he would like some refreshment. Trip asked for a chamomile tea. “An interesting choice.” “I find it calming.” “Do you feel the need for any guidance on what has just taken place?” T’Pol enquired. “No, I can manage.” T’Pol handed him the tea and they moved over to the sitting area. Trip looked down and began speaking, “It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? Both of us have sought anonymity and yet here we are again working together on somethin’ big.” T’Pol looked at Trip. “I wonder: are we ever able to escape our past?” Trip looked at her straight on. “Well, one thing I have learned is to deal with things head on and not bottle them up. Amanda has been a great help with that.” Even as he said it, Trip wondered whether he had been clumsy. T’Pol looked at him carefully. “You appear to have been fortunate in your choice of… support.” Trip felt the need to bring this time together alone to an end. “Yep, sure have. I don’t mean to be rude, but I ought to be gettin’ along.” Trip stood up. “Thanks for the tea. As soon as I have news on dates and stuff, I’ll be in touch.” T’Pol stood with him and walked behind him. “Trip?” “Yes?” “If I need to clarify any of the images from your memories, may I contact you again?” He turned and looked hard at T’Pol. She too had changed: more humble, more nuanced. “Course you can. Good night.” And as he finished speaking to her he leaned in, took her arm and kissed her on the cheek.

__________________________________

Location Star Fleet Headquarters. One week later.

Trip and Amanda walked in through the entrance door, full of smiles. It had been a great week. The MACO’s had headed out into the desert for Trip’s final test and he had been stretched to the full, with constant challenges thrown at him. He had been tasked with rescuing a hostage with odds of ten to one. When he considered the objective he sensed it was an exercise in coping with failure; there was no solution. He was having none of that and had hijacked the helicopter, threatened the pilot and, having put the entire unit out with a sedation nerve agent, dropped into the camp and rescued the hostage. He was commended for his improvisation and was sworn in as a MACO, passing all the tests with honours.

The MACO Commander had given him leave of absence to journey to Vulcan. When he heard the Vulcan ship had already left he was initially disappointed but much to his surprise and delight it turned out that the Enterprise, as part of the redeployment exercise triggered by the Romulan Emergency, was going to Vulcan.

Trip passed into the gateway for the Shuttle Transfer and checked the time. Ten minutes to go. Amanda was first. “Trip, these last few weeks have been the best. Thank you.” Trip kept it upbeat. “Honey, I’ll back in no time with this thing sorted, don’t ya worry.” Amanda was more serious.”I don’t know what went on in that meeting but its really stirred things up. Redeployments etc – it feels like the balloon’s gone up. Did you know they’re bringing the next two NX’s online in weeks? That’s why you’ll find the Enterprise in orbit, not in dock.” Trip didn’t let it show but the cocooning he had been applying, just looking at what was immediately in front of him, had led to him being out of touch. He tried to make a joke of it. “So I might get back and you’ll be gone!” Amanda, now entirely serious, “and you might not come back. I have a sense your days of hiding are over.” Trip raised his eyebrows and thought about T’Pol’s remarks. “Well, whatever happens, here’s what I think.” He put his arms around her and lifted her body towards him. He found her lips and gave her a kiss which left both of them breathless. She stood back and looked down, almost shy. Trip picked up his kit bag, winked at her and made his way through the Gateway. “See you later!”

___________________________

As Shuttle Pod 2 approached the Enterprise NX 01 he craned his neck to get a better view of her as she came into sight. For a minute he thought about all the bruises the old lady had received, particularly during the darkest hours of the Xindi Incident. Whether it was the recent Meld or the Bond it made him think about his relationship with T’Pol during those life changing times. He wondered whether she had arrived on Vulcan?

On the final approach he stood up to get a better look at the ship that had been his home for four years. “She sure is a thing of beauty” he said to himself. The Shuttle Pod swung in under the saucer section and the pilot manoeuvred the craft upwards, a gentle lift on the thrusters before entering the cargo bay and deftly landing.

The hatch open, he stepped out but to his astonishment the cargo bay was a hive of activity, as if an emergency was on. He heard a familiar voice with his back to him. “Take that forward to the Mess Hall, thank you, Ensign.” Trip waited for Captain Archer to turn. Several more instructions were fired at various personnel when suddenly he froze briefly and turned. “I am so sorry, Trip. It’s pandemonium.” Trip gave him a broad smile. “Permission to come aboard, Sir?” “You bet!” and with that, Archer walked up to Trip and took him in a bear hug, slapping his back. “It’s great to see you. You’re looking in great shape – the MACOS sure agrees with you. Listen, Trip, I have a million and one things to deal with right now. How about you join me for dinner tonight?” “I’d love to.” “I am going to the Quartermaster’s. Come with me, he will deal with your accommodation.”

As they walked through the corridors just as they had done so many times before, Jonathan filled him in. “That meeting a week ago certainly put the cat among the pigeons. After the second meeting, thanks to the Meld feedback, we have increased our alert status two levels and are rushing two more NXs into service.” Trip nodded, “Yes, Amanda told me. “We are also re-assigning staff to spread experience around. Malcolm and T’Pol’s replacement left for the Endeavour yesterday with 50% of the crew from Engineering. So 50% of Kelby’s compliment are trainees.” Given the hue and cry, Trip thought it would seem too trivial to share his disappointment that he would miss Malc.

They reached the Quartermaster’s and Jonathan turned. “See you later. And Trip… T’Pol’s on board.” Trip wondered why she had not already left. As Captain Archer headed off, a plan began to formulate in Trip’s mind. “Jonathan, would you give me some low level clearance? Speak to you ’bout it later.” The Captain raised his hand, “Will do.”

Location : Trip’s Quarters

Trip had been given a great location on the outer rim, probably previously used by diplomats. He looked out at the Heavens and smiled. He unpacked his things, fired up the information pad and searched out the Propulsion Subset. Yep, he would put his idea to Jonathan tonight. He checked his personal message log. There was one from Amanda: “No flirting with the staff now, Soldier ;-)” He smiled and responded.”Same goes for you, beautiful.”

Trip sat down on the bed. He was going to miss the life he had begun to build with Amanda and, seeing all the frantic activity on board the Enterprise, wondered whether it would ever go back to those idyllic six months they had shared. He decided to go down to the gym and changed into his workout gear. He was about to leave when suddenly he sensed a change.

He looked outside and noticed the stars were moving faster. My God, he thought, they were about to go to Warp. He looked out as the pace of change increased and then it happened. The stars started to stretch in front of his eyes. It was as if every star had become a droplet of water and right now a shower of water was passing right to left across the observation portal. He sighed, looking out on such wonder and left for his workout.

Location : Jonathan Archer’s Quarters

“I am sorry about earlier but these re-deployments have changed the dynamic of running the ship. I cannot just ‘drop in’ to things. I have to drive it all for the time being, till everyone gets their heads.” Trip shook his head. “No worries, Jonathan, and I have had an idea as to how I might help.” Jonathan smiled, “Shoot.”

“I am gonna be on board five, maybe six days, depending on whether you go at 4 or 5. I have had a look at Kelby’s current calibration settings and the other updates he has introduced. I could run a series of 2 on 1 training sessions with his trainee intake and help bring them up to speed faster. I don’t want to interfere; in the end it’s down to Kelby. He could assign me, say, two shifts a day on specific tasks, no troubleshooting or suggestions. What do you think?” Jonathan put down his cutlery. “Honestly, Trip? That would be great. Let’s talk to Kelby after dinner. Now, how are you? I want to hear about you!”

Trip thought carefully before answering. “I am doing real good, life couldn’t be better. Coming back on board has made me realise, Jon, I was burnt out. It wasn’t just little Elizabeth; I had enough of endless crisis management. I never took time off after the Xindi incident. And with all the complications with T’Pol, I was just drowning.” Jonathan looked at him for confirmation. “So you see this visit to Vulcan as drawing the line on that… drowning?” “I sure do. But I am curious: why she is on board and not with the Vulcans?” Jonathan let out a sigh. “Oh, that’s my fault. She is doing precisely what you want to do: taking the new Science Officer through her paces.” Trip raised his eyebrows. “Of course. Makes perfect sense.” Jonathan looked at Trip. “Right, let’s get Kelby and I’ll think of an excuse as to why you’re on board.” They both laughed.

Kelby had listened carefully to the Captain’s idea. “Firstly, Commander,” Trip interrupted, “just call me ‘Mr’ Tucker.” Kelby smiled nervously. If he was honest, the incident with the Orion woman, where he had rebelled and even got into a fight with Trip, always played into his treatment of his Chief Engineer and he was very careful to be respectful. “I would love to have your help, Sir. Let me design the sessions. Probably two models: one on Phase Variance and the other maintenance of the Plasma Injectors. I would suggest you remain a civilian and act as an instructor on board on my behalf?” Trip reached out to shake his hand. “Sounds perfect. What time do you want me there?” Kelby smiled modestly, “I will get the modules to you late tonight. So shall we say tomorrow? 0900 hours?” “Perfect.”

Trip turned to Jonathan. “All this talkin’ has made me thirsty. Can we have a beer?”

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